Historic trip for young hoopsters

Sometimes you play to win. Sometimes you play to get the experience. It was a case of the latter as a group of youngsters from the CI Hoopsters basketball club took their talents to Florida and made history for doing so.

It was the first time that an Under-12 boys team from the Cayman Islands competed in an AAU tournament. Although they did not win any of their three games at the Capital City Challenge from 15-17 April, coach Daniel Augustine described it as an excellent learning experience.

“The boys had a wonderful time. I think they gained a wealth of experience understanding team basketball and what basketball is at that next level,” he said in an interview with CaymanSportsBuzz.com.

“They all surprised me being that it was their very first tournament. I did tell them that for this age group, they are the first [team from Cayman] to ever play AAU basketball. They created history despite the results,” Augustine added.

Amani Ebanks captained the team and played centre. “The tournament was fun. We never won any games but it was a good experience. Not all the time you’re going to win but you have the joy of playing and the experience of doing something away from home,” he said.

Power forward Nathanael Roberts agreed. “It was a very good experience for me and the rest of the team. It was way different from playing here because it was hard but we’ll try to do better next time.”

The CI Hoopsters team in Florida.

Josh Gardener, who says he styles his game after his favourite player – Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets – was upbeat about the opportunity to play in the tournament and was keen to explain lessons learned on the court in Tallahassee.

“The games were amazing but I think we needed to pass more to create more shots. Next time we can try harder and do better,” the 11-year-old said.

The shooting guard now understands that Coach knows what he’s talking about and, like his teammates, is willing to listen more during training. “We can beat them but we need to get more experience and work hard on our drills.”

Meantime, captain Ebanks assessed: “We have to work more on our passing drills and more coordination to get in better spaces to get the ball easier and score.”

Augustine thanked parents and members of the community, who supported the youngsters in making the trip, knowing ahead of time that it was primarily for developmental purposes.

“They now understand what they need to do for the next one. I know the boys are going to be hungrier for the next time. They will train a lot harder,” he said.

The full squad who made the trip: Nathaniel Anderson, Amar Christian, Amani Ebanks, Lincoln Ebanks, Josh Gardener, Matthias McLean, D’Andre Rankin, Antoine Rocket McLaughlin, Nathanael Roberts, Dylan Watler.

Augustine said CI Hoopsters is also working with a group of Under-10 players with the intention of taking them to the same tournament next year.

In the meantime, another Florida trip beckons for youngsters in the CI Hoopsters programme this year. They are also invited to attend the Billy Mims Basketball Camp in July. Mims is the head coach of the Florida Tech Panthers, who compete in NCAA Division II.

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